CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Some would consider it an upset, unless you were there to see it yourself.
The Eastern baseball team was simply dominant while reaching the program’s second consecutive district championship game Sunday evening following an 8-0 victory over top-seeded Portsmouth Notre Dame in a Division IV district semifinal contest at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Ross County.
The fourth-seeded Eagles (16-9) pounded out 11 hits overall and plated an awkward run in the top of the first, but that early score proved to be more than enough offense for the guests as starter Cameron Richmond tossed a no-hitter while helping the Green and Gold get back to the district final for a second straight postseason.
Richmond allowed only two walks and hit a batter over seven solid innings while striking out eight. The Titans (18-7) also had three batters reach base courtesy of errors, but all six of those Titan baserunners were ultimately left stranded.
Eastern, conversely, benefited from six Notre Dame errors and left a dozen runners on base. The guests also had eight different players contribute at least one hit to the winning cause.
EHS plated two runs apiece in the third and seventh frames while also scoring three times in the fifth. The Titans also had to use three different hurlers in the seven-inning setback.
The Eagles will face seventh-seeded Belpre at 7 p.m. Monday night in the D-4 district championship game after the Golden Eagles posted a 10-6 win over sixth-seeded Manchester in the other semifinal contest on Sunday evening.
In all, it was about a perfect a night as EHS coach Brian Bowen could have hoped for. His team was aggressive, played solid defense for the most part and also provided plenty of run support for their starter.
It was an easy winning formula, one that the 16th-year mentor would like to see again in the next 24 hours.
“I’m pleased with how the kids played well from the start. That early offense ended up giving us confidence defensively, especially with Cam on the mound. And honestly, Cam really gave us something special tonight,” Bowen said. “It was a tremendous team effort all the way through and I am proud of all of them tonight. They really did a good job of playing the game.
“We’re not going to have Cameron out on the mound again Monday, so we’ll have to play a lot like we did tonight for whoever is out there. If the kids want it bad enough like we did tonight, then we’ll go out and get it. Hopefully we’ll be ready to do that.”
Ironic or not, Richmond — the senior right-hander — echoed a lot of the same sentiments as his coach following the no-hitter. His lone exception, a brief flashback to last year’s 11-4 loss to Trimble in the D-4 district championship game.
“You know, we had some really good at-bats from everyone tonight. We did a good job on the bases and the guys were pretty solid behind me defensively. We just put it all together tonight, and everyone played a part in this win” Richmond said. “Hopefully we can come out again Monday night and provide whoever’s on the mound with the same kind of defense and early run support. I know we are looking forward to another shot at a district title after last year.”
The game took an unusual twist in the top half of the first as Austin Coleman blooped a ball between two outfielders and the second baseman for a leadoff single, then John Little followed by executing a supposed sacrifice bunt.
Little, however, dropped a really good bunt down the third base line and legged out a single just ahead of the throw. Little ended up colliding with first baseman Tyler Speas a half-step later, which caused the ball to get knocked loose down the right field line as both players went down to the ground in pain.
Coleman continued racing around second and advanced past third base before PNDHS right fielder Truman Hash retrieved the ball. Coleman ended up scoring on the two-base error as the Green and Gold secured an early 1-0 advantage.
Things again took a pleasant turn for EHS in the top of the third as Richmond and Kaleb Hill provided back-to-back singles, then Nate Durst entered as a pinch-runner for Hill. Both Richmond and Durst advanced up a base following a wild pitch, but Durst was eventually picked off at second for the second out of the inning.
Ethen Richmond followed with a walk to put runners at the corners, then Notre Dame reliever Drew Cassidy tried to pick Ethen Richmond off at first — which led to a small rundown.
Cameron Richmond headed straight home following the throw-over to first and beat the relay throw from first back to the plate, giving the guests a 2-0 cushion with Ethen Richmond standing on second.
Jesse Morris followed one batter later with a two-out single to left-center that allowed Ethen Richmond to score, making it a three-run Eastern advantage through three complete.
Hill singled to leadoff the fifth and was switched out by Durst on the base path, then Brewer reached on an error. Richmond grounded out to first as both Durst and Brewer moved up a base, then Durst scored on an error that allowed Morris to reach safely — making it a 4-0 contest.
Brewer, who advanced to third on the error, later scored on a wild pitch for a 5-0 lead. Owen Arix delivered a two-out single that plated Morris for a 6-0 advantage through five complete.
Morris and Dillon Swatzel started the seventh with consecutive singles, then both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch to Coleman — who eventually walked to load the bases.
Morris ended up scoring on a two-out passed ball for a 7-0 contest, then Cameron Richmond walked — to again load the bases. Durst followed with a second straight free pass that allowed Swatzel to score the final run of the night.
Cameron Richmond struck out six batters in the first three innings and recorded at least one strikeout in every inning except the fourth and sixth frames. The final out of the game also came by strikeout.
Hill led Eastern with three hits and Morris added a pair of safeties. Coleman, Little, Brewer, Swatzel, Arix and Cameron Richmond also had a hit apiece for the victors.
Durst, Morris and Arix each drove in a run, while Morris led the guests with two runs scored. Coleman, Durst, Brewer, Swatzel and both Richmonds also scored a run apiece in the triumph.
C.J. Corns — who left the game three pitches into the second inning — took the loss after allowing one unearned run and one hit while striking out one in one-plus innings of work.
Cassidy entered in relief during the second frame, surrendering five runs (four earned), five hits and three walks over four innings while fanning five. Speas worked the final two innings of relief for the hosts, giving up two earned runs, four hits and three walks while striking out two.
EHS will be going for the program’s ninth district championship, and first since the 2011 campaign. Bowen also led the Eagles to district titles in 2002, 2005 and 2007.
The Eagles own a pair of victories over Belpre in the regular season, both by double-digit totals. Eastern won by a 10-0 count at BHS back on April 12, then posted a 13-3 win in Tuppers Plains on April 29.
Both D-4 district titles games on Monday night feature Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division members, with Trimble and Waterford playing in Game 1 at 5 p.m.
A third of the nine-team TVC Hocking is assured of reaching the regional tournament, as Wahama has already advanced to the Class A regional semifinals in the state of West Virginia.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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